Cloud computing has brought a number of new applications and technologies onto the scene for contemporary companies, and in doing so, it's also opened up a new set of business values. To be sure, many of the tried and true principles of effective enterprise operations remain just as important as ever: Keeping expenses to a minimum, for example, is still a top concern in the new IT landscape, and cloud services have proven to be an immensely beneficial asset in firms' attempts to cut costs wherever possible.
But as cloud-powered tools become more and more widespread, they're allowing businesses to function in new, more streamlined ways, and a set of virtues corresponding to this sped-up pace of operations has arisen. Agility, for instance, has become a popular and much-used term that now applies to a number of different departments and processes within today's companies. The notion of staying agile - nimble and able to adapt to changes quickly - is closely related to an equally important concept: flexibility. And just as the cloud and agility go hand-in-hand, hosted technologies are also driving more flexible operational models, both in the enterprise and for small and mid-sized businesses.
Mobility and the flexible work environment
But before we can fully understand how transitioning data and applications to cloud hosting environments can make business operations more flexible, it's necessary to distinguish between agility and flexibility. The two ideas are intertwined in obvious ways, but what sets them apart from each other is the scale at which they apply. Agility is a company-wide, high-level concept that has to do with the speed and responsiveness with which a given business can get products to market and adapt to the actions of competitors.
Flexibility, on the other hand, relates primarily to more micro-level, day-to-day issues that impact the specific ways in which employees do their jobs. One of the primary drivers of flexibility in the modern workplace is mobility, and the cloud has an important role to play in the deployment of an on-the-go, always-on workforce. Smartphones and tablets have proven to be much more than consumer tools and sources of distraction: Firms have figured out that these devices, essentially mini-computers, can be used for a variety of business functions. From his or her mobile device, any employee can collaborate with another staff member on an important project, answer a client's question or stay on target for producing a key deliverable from his or her home office.
The kinds of flexible work practices afforded by mobility can directly impact productivity and output, if utilized effectively. But in a column for Data Center Knowledge, IT expert Bill Kleyman pointed out that sped-up, always-on work requires technological support.
"We are a data-on-demand generation where mobility and productivity are critical to the success of your organization. Seconds matter as users dynamically request applications, rich data and even entire virtual workloads to be delivered to a myriad of devices," wrote Kleyman.
Without cloud infrastructure and Software-as-a-Service applications in place, businesses may find themselves left behind, unable to reap the full advantages of the flexible mobile age.